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A History of Flight

For Lt. Keyla Detmer

Everyone knows Renee,

Who made the flight to Jupiter

In a craft barely bigger than my bedroom.


Everyone knows Amelia, and how she disappeared

over a raging ocean or

In a cloud or 

Nose down in a place 

We still haven’t found 


And sometimes her story feels like mine,

or how it’s meant to end. 

You know, a flight fueled by hubris 

on a calculated course to wreckage.


But the stories we forget often tell 

The truths we seek;

Those who flew against stiff winds

in centuries before me

chart the course for me to fly unquestioned. 


I can take this helm and write our names on the stars

in trails of light,

my maneuvers undefeatable,

flight times unbeatable.

Hell, break my head and I’ll

come back armored up and ready for more. 


Did you not expect that?

You haven’t been listening. 


Remember Jacqueline, 

the first of us to break the speed of sound

Against the advice of almost

Everyone she knew?


I swagger but am I that bold? 

If I was told no, would I go where they’d say yes? 


Remember the Mercury Thirteen, those women of the sky,

denied the chance to set boots on the moon.

Endless simulations,

tests dreamt up by madmen in white rooms,

pushed to dizzying limits they didn’t know they had,

a battery of shock tests and vertigo. 

Would I have passed?

Only to be told no again? 


Wally didn’t orbit Earth till she was 82.

Would I last that long? 

Hold out hope till I could see the moon up close,

the silver of my hair matching the color of its face?


I throw fists, give rough kisses,

Run my mouth like an engine

But I wonder, would I be this way

If I had even once been told “you can’t”?


I’ll never know. 

My world is boundless opportunity

Restrained only by 

The limits of my own belief.

I stand at the end of an invisible lineage

Of forgotten names 

Whose mere existence humbles me.


So let me take this helm and write their names in light

In all the places they could never go,

Shoot off into uncharted black and blue 

On wings they left behind for me.

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